In theaters from director J.A. Bayona and Focus Features is a story of a boy who finds an unlikely ally when “A Monster Calls.”
Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is a young boy living a life filled with heartache. As his ill Mum (Felicity Jones) becomes bedridden, he struggles daily to deal with being himself. Dealing with the other school kids either pushing him around or feeling sorry for his situation, Conor just takes it all in.
That is until he is pushed to the very limits and a tree Monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) crashes into his life. The Monster demands that Conor tell him stories in an effort to help the young boy come to terms with everything that keeps him from living.
Grandma (Sigourney Weaver) takes Conor into her home when Mum goes into the hospital. The two must become acquainted, which is hard to do as they both carry the same anger. Even a visit from Conor’s Dad (Toby Kebbell) isn’t enough to help the bottled up emotions he is carrying.
It is what happens between Conor and the Monster that might give the young boy the ability to accept life and all its uncertainty.
MacDougall as Conor is an amazing find in this role. His ability to portray every emotion by not showing emotion just gave me the chills. This character brings out the childhood memories we all have of love, loss, not knowing who is friend or foe and relatives that should be a source of comfort but are not. MacDougall is absolutely and simply superb!
Weaver as Grandma is very cold toward Conor, and the young boy feels it. Even her home is perfection — putting Conor even more out of his comfort zone. The two characters have more in common than they realize. Jones as the young boy’s Mum is loving and has made sure to cement memories for Conor. That doesn’t mean being ill isn’t also a memory for him.
Neeson as the voice of the Monster is also brilliant. Of course, he has done this before as the voice of Aslan in the film “Narnia,” but as the Monster he is cold, straight forward and emotionally brutal but in an honest way. I have to say there are moments where this CGI created character could be quite frightening but the reasons become clear and smart. Of course, Neeson could read a phone book and most of us would be pretty happy with that.
Other cast include Ben Moor as Mr. Clark, James Melville as Harry, Oliver Steer as Sully, Dominic Boyle as Anton, and Jennifer Lim as Miss Kwan.
TUBS OF POPCORN: Welcome to 2017 as “A Monster Calls” is my first five tubs of popcorn out of five. This is an emotionally charged film with brilliant performances, a story that reaches into hearts and memories along with fantastic CGI (and when was the last time you heard me say that!). Every moment of this story on screen is amazing due to the work of Patrick Ness.
I should have realized that this would be an emotional journey, since director J.A. Bayona is also responsible for the 2012 film “The Impossible,” which was on my Top Ten list of 2012 — and a serious box of Kleenex film as well. Bayona has now reached down deep twice into an audience, and made us be honest with ourselves and the emotions we don’t want to either talk about or deal with.
The accolades for “A Monster Calls” are just beginning from the Critics Choice Awards to the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association voting a win for Best Voice Performance for Liam Neeson.
In the end — stories are wild creatures!